France Travel Guide


France Adventure Travel Guide: Ideas and Inspiration

PureTravel Says: “France has been a holiday hotspot for holiday-makers for many years: from the chic shopping and architectural treasures of Paris, to the elite resorts of the French Riviera, France offers many delights for international visitors. This is the land that ranges from rustic farmhouses to the ultimate of Royal Palaces at Versailles. France extends from the rolling farmland of Brittany to the magnificent Alpine scenery, with every possible range of countryside in between. This range of topography offers a whole range of activity holidays in France including wine tasting, cycling, rafting, walking, skiing and snow sports.”

Holiday Highlights

Culture & History - France is known for its food, its architecture, its interesting history and its wines. Each different region of France has its own cultural heritage, with different foods, wines and lifestyles.

In general, French cuisine is very rich and tasty. It features delicious sauces, often made with local wines and spirits. Foie Gras is a rich delicacy made of goose liver. Seafood and fresh fish is often used to create delicious dishes. The French classic dish is ‘Moules Frites’ which is fresh mussels and French fries. Crepes are a national delicacy. These thin pancakes are cooked to perfection and served with orange juice or sautéed fresh fruits and cream.

Breakfast is traditionally simple croissants and coffee. Lunch and dinner may consist of up to four courses; a starter, a main course, a salad course and finally a dessert or cheese course. Although the haute cuisine is rich, the French have much lower rates of obesity and heart disease than many other north European countries.

France is one of the oldest wine-producing countries in the world. Champagne and Bordeaux wine are important exports.

The French language is an integral part of French culture. The French academy has an official standard of language purity, and there is a system of subsidies for French cinema. There are several regional languages, including Breton and Alsatian.

Modern France has largely been influenced by its acquisition and incorporation of its overseas colonies. Paris has been the center of politics, the media and the arts from the renaissance to the present day.

Popular spectator sports include football (soccer) and France has a top national team. Rugby union, basketball, sailing and tennis are also popular spectator sports. The Tour de France is the world-famous cycling race which draws professional cyclists from all over the world to compete for the “yellow jersey”. The tennis Grand Slam tournament is known as the French Open. Grand Prix (Formula One) racing was invented in France. Petanque, a type of bowls, is also played in street plazas and local parks throughout the country.

France also dominates the fashion world, with many designer fashion houses being founded in France. Vogue, Elle, Christian Dior and Chanel are all household names with their couture houses in Paris.

Art - Many famous artists lived and worked in and around Paris. Impressionism was developed in France, and major artists included Claude Monet, Edgar Degas and Renoir. More recently, Picasso moved to France to produce his famous artwork. One of the largest and most important art museums in the world is the Louvre, in Paris. Many visitors come to see the magnificent collection, most notably the ‘Mona Lisa’.

When to Go

The best months to explore France depend on what you want to do there.

For winter sports, December to the end of March give great conditions on the snow-covered Alps.

For beach-based activities, the summer months from June through September are reliably sunny and warm. However, the school holidays mean busy roads, crowded resorts and higher prices. The South of France has mild winters so it is a pleasant year-round destination.

Visiting the cities is good at any time of year, although the north west of France has high humidity in the summer and rain and cold winds in mid-winter.

Holidays In Focus

Holiday Adventures and Activities

Cycling Holidays - For cycling fans, the Tour de France is a great annual event. It lasts three weeks and tours through France with sectors in the mountainous Pyrenees and a grand finale of speed around the cobbled streets of Paris. Many visitors flock to France to cheer their heroes at this annual event, and aficionados will follow it from place to place.

Others prefer to bring their own bike and explore the byways of France whilst enjoying the fantastic scenery. There are plenty of dedicated cycle paths and routes all over France, with a great choice of hotels and accommodation along the way. Enjoy quiet country lanes, canal towpaths and converted railway lines with awesome views of medieval villages, chateaus, river valleys and gorges. Some organized cycling holidays even transport your luggage ahead of you each day and provide support vehicles for emergency backup.

Ski and Snow Holidays - France has some of the finest ski resorts in the world. For downhill skiing and snowboarding in the Alps and Pyrenees, the high mountainous areas and glaciers offer great skiing.

The Sarenne ski run is the world’s longest run and covers 16km (10 miles). There is a great network of runs which offer a fantastic opportunity to explore the whole resort. Grandes Rousses Massif offers good skiers the opportunity to drop 8,000 meters of vertical drop in only four descents. Ski down the four routes one after another without having to use a chairlift to get back up. Skiers can authenticate their “First 8,000” with the ski lift staff at the arrival of each resort.

For the more adventurous off-piste skiers, some avalanche training is a great idea. A basic course is free with SAAC (Snow and Awareness Camps). Longer courses attract a fee but make a great vacation in their own right, complete with practical tuition on the slopes, bunkhouse accommodation and a highly qualified mountain guide.

Ski in the Moonlight - Every month there is a “ski in the moonlight” event in Sarenne, organized by SATA. Take the last car of the Pic Blanc cable car up to 2,220 meters. Enjoy refreshments under the stars in the GUC mountain hut, right on the Sarenne Glacier before descending the ski run in the moonlight down to Huez. A bus is laid on to transport skiers back to the resort.

Walking Holidays - The Loire Valley and the Dordogne are ideal areas for walking holidays. The uncrowded lanes, rustic villages and scenic landscape draw walkers from around the globe. There are plenty of places to stay overnight as you enjoy the slower pace of life that typifies these regions. Meander down ancient village streets of towns dating back almost 1,000 years and along quiet country lanes.

River Rafting - Take a thrilling journey down the 200kms of the Dordogne River at a gentle pace on an inflatable raft. This gentle mode of transport takes visitors past riverside towns and under ancient arched bridges with beautiful rural scenery at every turn.

Organized tours allow you to choose from 40 campsites with a range of facilities, or be independent and set up camp on the riverside. A boat, tent and all equipment is provided, as well as transport at the end of the trip, back to your car or train. There are many excellent places to eat in this gastronomic heart of France. This is the ultimate get away from it all holiday.

Climbing - France offers some excellent centers for climbing holidays including Chamonix, close to Mont Blanc. Even complete novices can take a climbing holiday with full training. Learn ice-axe skills, rope work and rock climbing skills with plenty of lectures as well as practical sessions on the slopes and glaciers each day.

Camping - France has an ideal climate for camping and caravanning with many camping resorts with tents already set up. They include all equipment, two bedrooms, table and chairs and cooking facilities to make camping with a family easier than ever.

Alternatively, bring your own equipment and tour the beautiful areas that France has to offer. The river valleys are exceptionally beautiful, lined with chateaux. The trees and surrounding natural beauty make camping and touring a pleasure.

Canoe Holidays - Ardeche is a popular region for canoe holidays. Even families can enjoy the gentler waters, and the area is beautiful. From gentle paddling to white water stretches, the options are many and varied for all skills. Stay in the Ardeche region and paddle under the beautiful Pont d’Arc, where the river flows under a natural arch.

Water Sports - There are many top class hotels and resorts along the beaches near Nice. They all offer many water sports including windsurfing, kite surfing, kayaking, sailing, banana-boat rides and parasailing. In France motorized craft with an engine of more than 6CV needs a license, so check this out before water skiing or jet skiing.

St Laurent du Var is a great place for windsurfing. Other suitable resorts include Esterel, Roquebrune-Cap-Martin and the Lerin Islands.

Ocean canoeing and rowing is offered at Antibes, Mandelieu and Cannes. Monaco and Menton are the best places for rowing.

Horseback Riding - The best way to explore the marshlands of the Camargue is on horseback. It is a botanical and zoological nature reserve. There are stables offering horses everywhere, and you can take a leisurely ride and enjoy the beautiful scenery whilst being at one with nature.

The area is a protected haven for wild birds and is home to more than 400 species. It is the main habitat for the Camargue Black Bulls; the Camargue, or white-maned grey horses and the exotic pink flamingo.

Culture

Wine Tasting - The Languedoc region of southern France is the center of many wine-tasting holidays. It produces a selection of red, white and rose wines. There are many interesting self-catering apartments in the area which make an excellent base for independent tours to the surrounding vineyards. Guided tours are available at most vineyards or hire a local wine expert to transport you around several recommended wineries. Meet the winemakers who create natural hand-crafted wines, and learn more about how vines are grown, how wine is made and how to choose a good wine. After wine-tasting, visitors can also buy a memorable souvenir of their visit.

Nature & Wildlife

Bird Watching - The best place for bird watching is the Camargue. It is a vast wetland area covering 360 km2 between the Mediterranean Sea and the River Rhone Delta. It is home to over 400 species of birds. The most popular sights are the pink Greater flamingo. Their exotic plumage is pale pink with contrasting black and crimson wings. Their curved beaks sieve the mud for food. They always live and breed in huge flocks. In the evening they take off in flight all together and make a spectacular sight as the sun sets. The best time to see them is during the breeding season, which is between November and March.

Top Tips

  • Hire a local guide if your plan to hike, climb or ski.
  • Always leave your travel itinerary with the hotel desk if you are planning to hike, climb or ski. Make sure to tell them when you arrive back though!
  • If you want to take photographs whilst riding, canoeing or other active sports, take a simple instant shot camera that only needs one hand to operate.
  • Don’t forget the insect repellent when you are out in the countryside, especially if you are near water.
  • In France motorized craft with an engine of more than 6CV needs a license, so check this out before water skiing or jet skiing.

Additional Information

Geography – France includes the territory of Corsica. France includes the six overseas collectivities of Mayotte, an island in the Indian Ocean, Saint Barthélemy, an island in the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean, Saint Martin, in the Lesser Antilles, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, a group of islands in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada, Wallis and Futuna, three small islands in the Pacific Ocean and French Polynesia in Oceania. France has one sui generis, New Caledonia in Melanasia, Oceania which includes the Loyalty Islands.

France also has control over the small non-permanently inhabited islands in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean of Bassas da India, Clipperton Island, Europa Island, Glorioso Islands, Juan de Nova Island and Tromelin Island.

The French overseas regions include Guadeloupe (since 1946), Martinique (since 1946), French Guiana (since 1946) and Réunion (since 1946).

Festivals, Events and Anniversaries in 2014

  • This year is the 175th Anniversary of the Birth of Paul Cezanne - Legendary French post-impressionist artist Paul Cezanne was born in Provence on 19 January 1839 and gave us such works as ‘The Card Players’ and ‘The Bathers’. Today his paintings, which inspired both Matisse and Picasso grace art galleries across the world.
  • This year marks the 15th Anniversary of the Euro - the Euro currency was adopted in 11 European countries: Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal and Spain. Today more than 320 million people across 23 countries have the Euro as their national currency.
  • Chamonix in France celebrates the 90th Anniversary of the very First Winter Olympics which took place 90 years ago, from 25 January to 5 February 1924. Held in the now popular ski resort of Chamonix in France, just 258 athletes competed in 16 sports.
  • This year is also the 300th Anniversary of Jean-Baptiste Pigalle’s Birth. The French sculptor Jean-Baptiste Pigalle was born on 26 January 1713. His life and works will be celebrated both in his birthplace of Paris and across the country. Pigalle’s most iconic work is the nude statue of Voltaire from 1776, which was bought in 1962 by the Louvre. He also has a district of Paris names after him, centered around Place Pigalle in the 9th arrondissements.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in France

There are 38 cultural and historical UNESCO World Heritage Sites across France;

- Chartres Cathedral
- Versailles Palace and Park
- Mont-Saint-Michel and Bay
- Prehistoric Sites and Decorated Caves of the Vézère Valley
- Amiens Cathedral
- Vézelay, Church and Hill
- Roman and Romanesque Monuments of Arles
- Cistercian Abbey of Fontenay
- Fontainebleau Palace and Park of
- Roman Theatre and its Surroundings and the "Triumphal Arch" of Orange
- Great Saltworks of Salins-les-Bains
- Abbey Church of Saint-Savin sur Gartempe
- Gulf of Porto: Calanche of Piana, Gulf of Girolata, Scandola Reserve
- Strasbourg – Grande île
- Place Stanislas, Place de la Carrière and Place d'Alliance in Nancy
- Roman Aqueduct at Pont du Gard
- Reims: Notre-Dame Cathedral/Former Abbey of Saint-Rémi/Palace of Tau
- Paris, Banks of the Seine
- Bourges Cathedral
- Canal du Midi
- Historic Centre of Avignon: Papal Palace, Episcopal Ensemble and Avignon Bridge
- Pyrénées - Mont Perdu
- Historic Fortified City of Carcassonne
- Lyons
- Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France
- Belfries of Belgium and France
- Saint-Emilion
- Loire Valley (Sully-sur-Loire and Chalonnes)
- Provins - the Town of Medieval Fairs
- Le Havre
- Bordeaux, aka Port of the Moon
- Fortifications of Vauban
- Lagoons of New Caledonia (overseas)
- Episcopal City of Albi
- Pitons, cirques and remparts of Reunion Island (overseas)
- French Alps: prehistoric Pile dwellings
- Causses and Cévennes, Mediterranean
- Nord-Pas de Calais Mining Basin

National Holidays in 2014

1 January - New Year's Day
21 April 21 - Easter Monday
1 May - Labour Day / May Day
8 May - WWII Victory Day
29 May - Ascension Day
9 June - Whit Monday
14 July - Bastille Day
15 August - Assumption of Mary
1 November - All Saints' Day
11 November - Armistice Day
25 December - Christmas Day

France Travel Resources

If you are looking for a more authentic experience during your stay in France then consider renting a self-catered holiday apartment with All-Paris-apartments. A holiday apartment lets you avoid the crowds of tourists usually found in and around hotels and allows you to experience life amongst the locals.

By Julie Bowman

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